My first memories of Mother’s Day are of celebrating my own mother. I was blessed with a mom who has always loved her three children deeply. I have had the blessing in my life to never wonder if my mom loved me. As I write this, my heart grieves for all of the children across our country and in our world who did not have the privilege that I did. I grew up surrounded in love by my mom. I am ever thankful for the wonderful woman that she is and for all that she has done for her three children. I have never had the heartache as some do of wondering if they are loved. Thank you mom for that priceless gift that you have given to me and to my brother and sister. The priceless gift of your love has been a solid foundation in each of our lives.
When I was blessed with my first child PK, then Mother’s Day took on an additional joyous meaning. Suddenly, I was a mom to this beautiful baby boy who I love more than words can describe. The love that a mother has for her child is so strong and so incredible… I was in awe of my son and of the love that I felt for him. I have been so blessed to have this awesome opportunity with my two incredible daughters as well. With each of my daughters, I am also in awe of these two incredible young ladies and the fierce love and protectiveness that I have in my heart for them. As I write this, my heart also grieves for the women who have always longed to be moms and were unable to have children of their own for various reasons. The ache and pain that exists in their own hearts brings tears to my eyes, and our thoughts and prayers should be with them as well.
Mother’s Day for many years has brought so much joy to my heart and to my life. I remember my husband trying to teach our children about Mother’s Day and encouraging them to honor and bless me on that day and on every other day. Our first Mother’s Day after he had died from a work related accident in August 2011 was so sad, and yet I watched my children at the ages of 16, 15, and 12 doing their best to bless me as they so desperately missed having their dad with us. I remember after Kirk died trying to teach my children that as they honored Nana, their dad’s mom, that they would also be honoring their dad.
After my only son was killed at the age of 18 in a car accident in June 2013, Mother’s Day took on so many other thoughts and feelings. I remember thinking of going to church that Mother’s Day. I was already having a hard time returning each Sunday to the church that we attended with my son. Each time we would enter the church, and we would sit in the pew that we normally would sit in, then I would just picture him sitting there with us. As I would have that strong memory of PK sitting there with us, I would just want to run out of the church. I remember always sitting at the end of the pew. I had this tremendous need of having the ability to have a quick escape if I needed it. I could not feel like I was “trapped” in the middle of others. I needed to be on the end so that if I needed to go out for a little while that I could. Every Sunday that we were there, I could see him sitting there with us, and as always, my heart and mind would remind me that he was gone and that he would never sit there with us again. The harsh, heart-wrenching loss when your child dies is pain beyond words.
As that first Mother’s Day approached in May 2014 without my son, I remember telling my daughters that I needed to go to a different church that Sunday. I did not feel like I could emotionally handle sitting in that spot without my son on that day. My girls and I actually drove to a different city about 45 minutes away and attended a much larger church where no one really knew us. For some reason in my grief, that helped me to “make it ” through that time.
I felt like I was walking on a tightrope and did not want to lean too far to one side or I was concerned that I would fall off that rope. I was looking at my two beautiful daughters and everything in me wanted to celebrate being their mom. I did not want Kylee and MiKayla to feel like their mom did not 100% celebrate being their mom not only on Mother’s Day but on every day. As fierce as this desire has been, the pain of not having my only son with me on that day and every other day feels excruciating. It was my desire to figure out how could I balance my grief for my son with the celebration of my two daughters. I believed and continue to believe that the two can coexist. This balancing act continues today as today was my 5th Mother’s Day without my son. It is still unbelievable to me that he is gone.
My two girls are just incredible people. I stand in awe of who they are, of all that they have had to go through in their young lives, and in the strength and determination that they both have. I make sure to tell them on Mother’s Day that I celebrate them. I want them both to know that this day holds much joy for me as I think about each of them and as I remember the time that I did have with their brother. Even though I carry my grief and their brother deep within my heart and soul, I never for a moment want them to forget the tremendous love and gratitude that I have for them. The emotions that I carry during this weekend each year are numerous and cut so deep. On Saturday, I had several hours where tears kept pouring down my face, and I was overwhelmed at how long they kept coming.
This morning, my two girls blessed their mom in so many ways. Kylee was determined to cook brunch for us, and she did such a wonderful job. Kylee’s sweet, giving heart is such a joy to see. She shows her love in so many ways. MiKayla had so much joy this morning as they blessed me with beautiful flowers, a necklace, the sweetest card, and then a book that I will always treasure. They gave me a small book entitled, “What I love about mom.” This little gift book has 50 sayings that they had to complete regarding what they love about mom. They each filled in each thought and wanted to make sure that I knew who wrote each thought. As they described it, it became easy to see who wrote what as MiKayla proudly shared that she completed each one first so her thoughts were the first part and Kylee’s thoughts were the second part.
For example, number 26 says “I’d be lost without your…” and then there is a blank to fill in where MiKayla wrote “wisdom” and Kylee wrote “constant love”. Every one from 1-50 was a priceless gift as my daughters shared what they treasured about their mom. It was also a fun time filled with much laughter as MiKayla would giggle endlessly at any thought that she believed that Kylee “copied” from her being she was the first writer. I assured them that being they had the same mom that there would be some similarities. It is such a joy for me to watch how MiKayla continues to grow in being able to express herself emotionally. These are big steps in her healing, and they bring me so much joy. Kylee and MiKayla both blessed my heart beyond words with this book. This little gift book will always be one of my greatest treasures as it shows from their hearts what they love about their mom. Thank you girls for such a priceless gift.
It is always enlightening to see how others see you… I am thankful for each moment of joy that the girls and I continue to share. I am so thankful that on Mother’s Day while my heart is filled with so much pain of not having my son with me that at the same time I am able to have so much joy with my two daughters.
In the afternoon, we had MiKayla’s baccalaureate service. It was back at the auditorium that we were in for the senior walk for prom. This is the auditorium where we held PK’s visitation and funeral. I was trying to pump myself up emotionally to be able to sit back in that place. I remembered from senior walk how the images would pop into my head of my son lying there. I kept praying for strength to be able to endure being back in there. Again, it was my desire to focus on MiKayla and to celebrate her baccalaureate. Before it started, I pleaded with God for strength. I was thankful that Kylee was home from her university and was able to be there with us to celebrate her sister at this time. We were able to take a lot of fun pictures of MiKayla with her friends which I know that she will always treasure.
The service was beautiful. We loved hearing Mr. Fears speak and as always he had a great message for the graduates and their families. The song was sung by Ashlyn who had grown up with my kids. Ashlyn’s family worked with us through the years, and Ashlyn sang so beautifully. Tears poured down my face as I listened to her. When she came to the words, “It is well, it is well with my soul…”, my body was trembling as that is one of my current prayers. I blogged about those words about two weeks ago in my blog entitled “Am I certain in uncertainty?” It is always amazing how The Lord ties things together. Here I was sitting in the auditorium where we had my son’s visitation and funeral. I was filled with so much joy and thankfulness for my two girls and for the time that I had with my son on Mother’s Day. My grief and pain due to my son’s death and absence was piercing my heart and soul as I was spending my fifth Mother’s Day without him. I was celebrating my two daughters on this Mother’s Day and all that they are and are growing to be. I was celebrating my baby girl at her baccalaureate and the new season she was entering in her life. I was pondering my new empty nest as a single person that continues to get closer and closer. And yet when all of these emotions were flooding my heart and soul, here was beautiful Ashlyn singing the words to the song that I had been pondering and just recently blogged about. I had watched Ashlyn grow from when she was a newborn baby. She had grown up with all three of my children. Her dad, who is our dear family friend, was playing the piano as Ashlyn sang.
Amazing. Amazing that as I was filled with so many deep emotions that Ashlyn was singing the words “It is well with my soul.” As I shared in my blog two weeks ago, the words to this song challenge me to my core. Spafford who wrote this hymn had already lost his two year old son, and the Great Chicago fire of 1871 had ruined him financially. He planned to travel with his family to Europe, and at the last minute, he had to change his plans and send his family on ahead of him. The ship that his family was traveling on sank while crossing the Atlantic after colliding with another vessel and all four of his daughters died. His wife lived and sent him a telegram that said, “Saved alone….” As he was traveling to meet his wife, and please keep in mind that now all five of their children had died, he wrote the words to this hymn as he passed near where his four daughters had died. The fact that this man wrote the words “it is well with my soul” after losing all five of his children is, as I shared previously, one of the most unbelievable examples of being certain of God in uncertainty.
Now for the second Sunday in a row, I was hearing those words. This hymn was sung by the choir at MiKayla’s senior sunday the week before, and now Ashlyn was singing a modern version of the hymn which contained part of the traditional chorus. Spafford was obviously in tremendous pain after having lost all of his children. Yet, he was choosing to continue to live in faith of who God is despite all that he was going through. This story challenges me to my core. As tears continued to pour down my face as Ashlyn sang, I kept praying, “Yes Lord. I will live in faith of who you are despite the pain that I am.” I want to live a life of love and faith. He will continue to help me and my beautiful girls.
Tonight, as I had the girls help me plant some of the last of our flowers, I thought this is symbolic. As we continue to learn to live in our “new normal” without our guys, we can continue to plant seeds of hope and of new life. I am so glad that our day ended this way and that we spent the last part of our night bringing some beauty to where we are. Prayerfully, we will do that each day as we love God, each other, and all of those that we are with. We will continue to seek the peace that passes understanding. I am closing this Mother’s Day with much gratitude for all of the blessings in my life including those that I so desperately miss. May you find gratitude deep in your heart for each of your blessings despite the difficulties and pain that you may be experiencing as well. The girls and I send you much love and much hope for so much joy and gratitude in each of your lives.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie